Mat’s July Letter

I’ve just finished reading slowly through the book of Acts. It is a truly incredible record of the new church discovering what life following Jesus is like. There are amazing miracles, mind blowing experiences of the
Holy Spirit, persecutions, executions, shipwrecks, church meetings, disagreements, disappointments, changes of hearts and minds and of course conversions; thousands of them. I realise that these things happened over a number of years but I struggle to think of them as normal to my experience of being church. Are they yours?

Mark Bailey, a vicar in Cheltenham (and past member of St Matthew’s) recently wrote this; “I wonder whether our experience with Jesus has become so subnormal, in relation to what is normal in the New Testament, that what is normative in the New Testament has become abnormal. I think that what is our abnormal ought to become more normal… Sacrifice should be normal. Generosity ought to be normal. Miracles are normal. All these things are part and parcel of normal New Testament Christianity. So often I think we need to pause and take stock and make sure that we’re not creating God in our image, that we’re not dumbing down our theological framework to match our impoverished experience.”

The ‘normality’ described in the early church did not mean they had it easy. Acts is clear that God works in and through both good and downright atrocious times. God worked through the church in the joy and the mess of life to bring His kingdom to fruition in a hostile world. I bet that at times Peter, Paul and all the apostles wondered what on earth God was doing and sometimes questioned where God was. And yet, inspired and empowered by the Holy Spirit they continued to live in faith following their Lord. Not easy to do.

A couple of weeks ago I was struggling. Someone prayed for me and I was filled with a sense of peace and faith that can only have been the Holy Spirit. So often it is in the tough places that we meet most powerfully with God.

Perhaps like me (and with Mark) you might like to pray ‘Lord, our experience of you falls so short of what we encounter in the gospels and the epistles; would you come and do something about it, would you enable us to experience more of you.’


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